This week, Sonja reflects on working in the immunisation clinic for the past 15 years and her achievements in that time.
What makes your ward and the patients you care for different from other wards?
Approximately one quarter of RCH patients are due or overdue for immunisations, and this is significant given that most of these children are in special risk groups. The immunisation service plays an important role in closing the gap to accessing life-saving vaccines. It is a welcoming place that increases awareness and opportunities for immunisation, as well as allowing visitors to seek expert immunisation advice.
Tell us about your RCH journey. When you joined, the roles you’ve held here.
I joined the RCH in 1997, commencing as a graduate nurse program participant. In 1999, I became a Clinical Nurse Specialist in the general medical unit, caring for patients with whooping cough, meningococcal and pneumococcal disease, as well as rotavirus gastro. It seemed like a natural progression to join the immunisation service in 2003, providing vaccines to prevent these same illnesses. I became the manager of the immunisation service in 2005 and was endorsed as the first Victorian Nurse Practitioner (NP) in the field of immunisation in 2017.
Talk us through what a typical day looks like… or what you’re doing today.
I start my day at 07.30, checking the immunisation records of every RCH inpatient and identifying which patients are due or overdue for immunisation. The centre opens at 09.00 and I begin the day by providing telephone advice as well as opportunistically immunising patients who attend the centre or providing vaccines to the identified inpatients. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays I have patients booked in to see me specifically for non-scheduled vaccines. I run an immunisation NP clinic on Tuesday mornings, where I provide clinical advice to special risk patients, vaccine hesitant families or patients requiring immunisation under sedation. In addition to my clinical work, I manage service operations such as staffing, budgets, rosters and the professional development of my team.
What is the most rewarding thing about your current role?
I get to work with a great team of people who are passionate about protecting patients from disease. It’s extremely rewarding being good at giving injections, and having people tell you that they didn’t feel it!!
What is your favourite RCH memory or achievement?
Being awarded the Templestowe Auxiliaries Scholarship in 2014 and more recently the 2018 Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Nursing Development Scholarship. These scholarships are such a special opportunities, unique to the RCH, that enable me to do great work in the field of immunisation and make a difference to health outcomes for our patients. I feel extremely privileged to be awarded such great honours.
In five words, tell us what you love you about your work?
Having a laugh with colleagues.
If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be and why?
Michael Buble, because I love his music and I am his biggest fan.
How do you relax after a long shift?
Listen to Michael Buble.
If you could be any animal in the world, what would you be and why?
Michael Buble’s pet.